Editor’s Note: This is part of our continuing series of blog posts that provide straightforward practical tips for how to save money. Anxious to hear what you think.
The Internet has opened up a new world of comparison shopping and bargain-seeking for consumers. When it’s time to plan the perfect vacation should you let your fingers do the searching for online travel deals or ask a professional to search them out for you?
“Travelers think they can do it themselves,” says Sally Black, president of vacationkids.com, an online travel agency that specializes in booking family vacations. “Then they get overwhelmed or mess it up and then decide they need a professional travel agent.”
Black says some of the traps of the online sites and group deals can include flying out on one airline and back an another or even worse, complicated connections involving two different air carriers.
And Black adds the last-minute travel deals posted online may offer good pricing on accommodations, but the last-minute airfare to get there will be very expensive.
“More often than not working with a travel agent straightaway would have saved them not only dollars but a huge amount of aggravation and time,” said Black. “And isn’t time the most valuable thing we all need?”
Travel professional Cyndi Hansen says travelers are usually okay on their own searching online for the best price for straightforward airline tickets.
Hansen, who owns her own travel business, Red Amore Travel, and trains other travel agents for a travel hosting agency, says when it comes to putting together vacation packages with the most value for every dollar, let a professional do the work for you.
“It will be the same price anyway or maybe even lower,” Hansen said.
And she adds that instead of an Internet confirmation number, travel agency clients have access to customer service, guidance and travel expertise before, during and after a trip. And the commission the agent receives isn’t paid by the traveler as an add-on to the final bill. Commissions are paid by the supplier.
Sally Black, with vacationkids.com, says she works with her clients to encourage them to plan vacations in advance to secure the best travel deals.
Black says airline consolidations and reduced flight schedules mean there is a higher demand for the remaining inventory of seats.
“The airlines normally post their prices 330 days out,” said Black. “That’s when travelers have the best pick of schedule and non-stop flights and prices.”
“We like to say planning a vacation is like planning a family,” Black added. “For the best results you need to work nine months in advance.”
While William Shatner encouraged travelers to “name their own price” and your inbox may be filled with “buy two nights get one free” resort deals, travel professionals say to plan a complete vacation within your budget, rely on an agent. A travel professional can often find you the best deal for your money and make the sailing, flying or driving just as smooth as possible.
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